Oregon State Police says new proposed bill could increase number of troopers on roads

Fatal crash on Newberg-Dundee Bypass - Oregon State Police photo

In the new year, we've already seen tragedy on Oregon's roads. A cyclist was killed on Highway 30 Saturday afternoon, when the driver of a semi hit the cyclist. Earlier this week, two semi drivers died on the Newberg/Dundee bypass when their trucks collided head-on during an icy morning commute.

"Oregon over the past year has seen more than a 5 percent increase in fatalities," says Captain Tim Fox with Oregon State Police.

Put plainly, Fox says they just don't have enough troopers on the roads.

More than 11,000 calls a year go unanswered, sometimes because troopers aren't even on duty. There's nothing funding them. Oregon has seven troopers per 100,000 people, the second lowest rate in the country. A new bill would double that rate, tying the population to trooper staffing.

"Pretty much all our office would go to 24 hour coverage. and what this would also would do. we'd be able to get off those interstates. We'd have people assigned to those, then we'd be able to work the secondary routes where we're having some of these fatalities," Fox explained.

The problem started in 1980, when OSP got taken out of the highway fund, so the money started disappearing and each year fewer and fewer troopers are on the road. OSP data from 2001-2016 suggests if we had the appropriate number of troopers, we would have saved $1.4 billion and more importantly 921 lives.

"We feel that we can really make a difference. We can be out there and we can stop some of this driving behavior that's causing some of the fatal crashes," Fox said.

Fox says that means troopers could focus on prevention, meaning more enforcement. Fox says they only ticket about half of the people they pull over for a violation, and plan to continue that trend - even with more troopers watching.

"We understand there is a need for citations, and it has to happen sometimes. People make choices and choices have consequences. But we also just want people to learn and educate them and say look it is dangerous."

The bill is before lawmakers Monday for its first reading.

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